Foiling a plan by Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen to set up base in Gujarat, the police have arrested a Kashmiri Bashir Ahmed Baba alias "Pepsi bomber" who was allegedly recruiting youths and had conducted a recce of key sites including ISRO facility in the state.
"We have arrested one Basheer Ahmed Baba alias Aijaz from near Samarkha village in Anand district last night," Gujarat Anti-Terror Squad chief Ajay Tomar said in Ahmedabad Said on Sunday.
Baba, who was out on bail, was arrested on a tip off provided by Central security agencies after police got a whiff of his activities which were being closely monitored. Tomar said Baba's main job was to identify vulnerable youth, brainwash them and sent them to Pakistan for terror training, adding he had till now sent nearly 3000 youths for the purpose.
A resident of Srinagar, Baba was known among the Jammu and Kashmir police as "Pepsi Bomber" for his ability to assemble Improvised Explosive Devices in empty Pepsi cans along with an accomplice.
He was active during the Amarnath land agitation row and had allegedly hurled IEDs in Pepsi cans at police. He was arrested after officials traced the chemical factory, set up in the house of one Arif Gilkar, where the two allegedly used to assemble the IEDs.
Baba had conducted detailed recce of some places including Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Railway stations, Kankaria lake, science city, Akshardham temple malls and cinema houses, Tomar said.
The ATS chief said, "He was in close contact with Hizbul Mujaheedin leader Bilal Shera who is located in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. He was also in constant touch with one General Abdulla of the Jamiyat-ul Mujahideen during his stay in Gujarat." Tomar said Baba used to send the youths to Bilal, who trained them to use explosives at 15-day camps. "His work here was to set up a network in the state. We have seized some documents, mobile phones and SIM cards, visiting cards, phone number of persons in Saudi Arabia," he said.
"For calling Bilal or sending him an email, he used phones and computer of local contacts in the city, who thought Baba was the representative of an NGO," Tomar said. Police is also on the look out for a journalist from Kashmir valley who is allegedly Baba's accomplice in setting up a base outside the state.
Baba has been booked under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Tomar said further investigation is on.
The government today termed it a weekend of "major successes" with the arrest of terrorists and militants in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur. While the Maharashtra ATS arrested two terror suspects Abdul Latif alias Guddu and Riyaz Ali from Mumbai, the Gujarat ATS arrested Bashir Ahmed Baba alias "Pepsi bomber" from Anand while in Manipur, the chief of Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL) was arrested by security forces.
"This weekend we have had three major successes. One module has been busted in Maharashtra in Mumbai, which the Maharashtra ATS has already made statement.... We have another module being busted in Gujarat of the Hizbul Mujahideen and KYKL chief of the army has been arrested in Manipur also... so it's been good...," Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said.